Scottish, English and IB exams

The Scottish public exam system is administered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and SQA exams are recognised for entrance to universities around the world.

Scottish and English curriculum

Currently National 5's are taken in the fourth year of secondary school. They cover a wide range of subjects across the curriculum and are broadly equivalent to GCSEs in England. In fifth and sixth year, students follow a two year programme at Higher and Advanced Higher level. Academic and vocational subjects are offered, providing breadth and depth of study. In sixth year, pupils can improve on their Highers, take more, or progress to Advanced Higher in selected subjects. The independent sector in Scotland offers a particularly diverse range of subjects at Advanced Higher.   For more information vist the SQA website.

Most boarding schools follow the English curriculum with GCSEs, AS and A Levels awarded by exam boards in England while some day schools offer some English AS and A Levels in additional to the Scottish curriculum - based on what they believe provides the best course of study for their pupils.

Scottish/English equivalent stages

The table below sets out the key stages of the Scottish qualifications system and the broadly equivalent stages in England.

Age Scotland England
14/15 Secondary 3 Year 10, 4th form
15/16 Secondary 4 Year 11, 5th form
16/17 Secondary 5 Year 12, Lower 6th
17/18 Secondary 6 Year 13, Upper 6th


International Baccalaureate and Scottish Baccalaureate

A small number of independent schools in Scotland offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) while others are considering its merits. The IB is designed to develop a broad range of skills. Students take six subjects for two years and study Maths, Science, a language (ancient or modern) and a social subject. They follow a course in the Theory of Knowledge, undertake a programme of Creativity, Action and Service and write a 4000 word essay on a subject of their choice. The Scottish Baccalaureate consists of a coherent group of Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications and an Interdisciplinary Project of the candidates' own choosing which is marked at Advanced Higher level.

Qualifications in Special Schools

All independent, special schools in membership of SCIS offer qualifications and units awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Some also offer additional, specialist qualifications such as ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) and BSL (British Sign Language).

Examination System